I’d waited thirty-two years for this. After all the media attention The Jesus & Mary Chain attracted back in ‘84 with those gigs, it’s been a bumpy – not to mention at times speedy – rollercoaster ride for brothers Jim and William Reid with some achingly good tunes thrown in along the way. Nineteen years after their last album, East Kilbride’s finest had come to bring some Damage And Joy to Cambridge.
How perfect it was to enter the Junction on a Monday night under April skies with the sound of guitars shifting and clunking into gear for opener ‘Amputation’. What followed was ‘April Skies’ running into ‘Head On’ and speeding into the rattling machine gun fire of Far Gone and Out’. Phew!
Back in the day, the gig might have come to a grinding halt at this point but the first four numbers were almost worth the entry fee alone. “And the way I feel tonight, I could die and I wouldn’t mind”. Think about it: when was the last time a band honestly made you feel this good? There was a taste of Teenage Lust in the air with Some Candy Talking thrown in too. But this wasn’t just an evening of ‘golden oldies’ because one of the highlights of the night was a real gem from the new album in the form of All Things Must Pass.
‘Reverence’ brought plumes of dry ice hovering to head height, rendering William nothing more than a cloud of grey hair. Rarely did he turn towards the audience, keeping a low, dignified profile, standing mostly side-on and occasionally bending over his guitar to exorcise more squalling, soaring sounds and sometimes turning his back on the audience completely. This leaves just Jim, looking as skinny and as vulnerable as his twenty-something former self to ‘present’ this decidedly no-frills show.
It seemed apposite, then, to witness the gyrating crowd throwing themselves around as if in the midst of some dark and ecstatic ritual singing, “I wanna die! I wanna die!”. Directly in front of the stage, silhouettes of revellers were being hurled over the crowd in true festival style – and all of this on a Monday night. Cambridge was just warming up…
The Mary Chain could have ended it there but the Cambridge Junction was in no mood for an early night, so with a bit of “arm twisting” the band were lured back on stage to hit us with six of their best. As the guitars seared through the smoke, sheets of howling feedback bellowed from William’s towering Orange stack; this box of sonic tricks was unrelenting. What followed was a generous downpour of ‘Nine Million Rainy Days’, ‘Taste of Cindy’, ‘Just Like Honey’, right to ‘The Living End’. Finally, ‘War On Peace’ – from the new album – kept building and building till you wondered if it was going to take the roof off the Junction. It came to a staggering climax and that… was that.
This was a life moment. The J&MC were ‘cutting-edge’ back in ‘85 and now, thirty-something years on, as the feedback fades, the smoke clears and the years roll by, the band are as compelling as ever. Tonight was a vindication that you’d have to be mad not to love rock ‘n’ roll. And, yes, it was worth the wait.
Words from Chris Williams
Images from Valerio Berdini